One of the great things about loving land speed racing is that you never know where or when one of the beasts will turn up. For example, just check out this guy. That would be the fastest car in the world, circa 1899, and get this: It was electric. No internal combustion there. And just where did this bit of automotive arcana show up? Why at this years North American International Auto Show in Detroit, of course.
The name of this Land Speed Record holding car is the La Jamais Contente, which translates as “Never Satisfies”, and you got to love a ride with a name like that. Driven in 1899 by Belgian racecar driver Camille Jenatzy, La Jamais Contente was the first car to travel faster than 100 kilometers per hour.
Sure, to you, today, that doesn’t seem like much, but back then it was literally flying. Although humans could even literally fly for a few years AFTER Mr. Jenatzy set his record. Hitting 100 clicks back then was about as easy to do as hitting 1000 clicks today, which is to say: Not very. Ever driven a Ford Model A? Try getting one of those up to freeway speed and you’ll see what I mean.
Anyway, La Jamais Contente was motivated to these breakneck speeds via two electric motors each putting out 50 kW to the rear wheels. And also notice the bullet-shaped body. A nice nod to ‘by guess and by golly’ aerodynamics, but the whole layout seems to be frighteningly conceived in terms of mechanical stability.
As it is now, so has it ever been thus: Batteries were a stumbling block. But La Jamais Contente was equipped with 100 two-volt cells that gave it enough spark to move the car to its record breaking speeds. And although it looks like a drop tank from a P-51, La Jamais Contente ain’t light. It tips the scales at 3,197 pounds.